The refugee-sponsor group EK Friends of Burma has been assisting refugees arrival and transition into the East Kootenay since 1995. Although they have primarily focused on refugees from Burma (Myanmar), the Friends have welcomed refugees of many different ethnicities.
The group is also transitioning into being an umbrella organization, assisting other groups in sponsoring refugees. from many nations. The time has come, says Shauna Jimenez of FoB to change the name to reflect that.
EK Friends of Burma will be known as EK Friends of Refugees as of April 23. That’s when the vote to change the name will be taken.
“Our AGM is Saturday, April 23 at 1 p.m. at Wasa Lake (6283 Wasa Park Drive), when we will vote to change our name to EKFriends of Refugees — to be more inclusive of all the refugees we sponsor,” Jimenez said.
EK Friends has been working with a number of refugee sponsors, including the group Kootenay Cares, who recently brought in a Syrian family and a group in Fernie, who will be bringing in a Liberian woman with a family of 10.
Interestingly, Jimenez met the woman four years ago when visiting a refugee camp in Ghana. She is excited to welcome her to Canada on April 22.
“There are four groups working in Cranbrook right now. One group, from the Baptist Church is bringing in a family of Chin people from Southern Burma,” she said. “They ended up fleeing to Malaysia. This is a family with two kids in wheelchairs. A group in Rossland is bringing in more Chin people and an Eritrean woman.”
There is also a group in Kimberley working on bringing in Syrian families.
Once a family arrives, the work doesn’t stop. Families need assistance with learning English, with adapting to a new society, kids need help with homework.
“We are looking for volunteers right now to help with families who are here right now,” Jimenz said. “Including August Paw’s family in Kimberley.”
Jimenez says that some of the groups waiting for refugees to arrive have been volunteering with Friends of Burma — a great way to get an idea of what the sponsored families may need when they arrive.
If you’d like to assist, contact Shauna at 250-422-==3259. Anyone interested in working with refugees is more than welcome to attend the AGM on April 23 in Wasa.